Times Poll Confirms: 66 Percent of New Yorkers Like Bike Lanes

Poll numbers released by the New York Times today show that 66 percent of adult New Yorkers think bike lanes are a good idea, joining a growing body of public opinion data that indicates strong local support for bike infrastructure.

Just two years ago, the Times noted that “there have been no independent polls of New Yorkers’ attitudes on bicycle lanes.” Now, the Times itself joins Quinnipiac (which has polled the issue three times) and Marist in producing a citywide survey that shows New Yorkers support bike lanes and bike-share by significant margins. Perhaps it’s time local politicians took notice.

Bike Like a New Yorker
Looks like Transportation Alternatives new "Bike Like a New Yorker" campaign could be flipped to say "New Yorkers Like Bikes."

Despite the positive numbers, reporters Michael Grynbaum and Marjorie Connolly imparted a decidedly glass-half-empty spin.

A third of respondents said they own a bike, with half of them riding at least once a week. While this works out to be more than a million adults riding at least once a week, the Times said that this proves “bicycling remains far from mainstream in New York City.”

What’s more, it appears as though more than half of respondents have a bike in their household (Times phrasing: “nearly half said nobody in their household had one”). This would actually put NYC’s household bike ownership rate above its car ownership rate, which is about 46 percent of households, according to the most recent Census data.

In addition to finding that majorities in all five boroughs support bike lanes, the Times provides some numbers to follow up on last week’s Q Poll that found 74 percent of New Yorkers think bike-share is a good idea. The Times again emphasized the negative, reporting that because 40 percent of respondents had not heard of Citi Bike before it’s even opened, it “has not generated much interest.” The Times doesn’t reveal the percentage of New Yorkers who have heard of Citi Bike, but assuming it’s around 60 percent, it would work out to nearly 4 million people.

The article also casts aspersions on the appeal of bike-share because “more than half of New Yorkers said they were not likely at all to use the service.” For comparison’s sake, 24,212 people have annual Capital Bikeshare memberships, equal to 2.9 percent of the population of Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Virginia. If, say, a quarter of New Yorkers use Citi Bike, the system would be overwhelmed by demand.

  • Ian Turner

    Thankfully, less than 2% of households subscribe to the New York Times; I guess they are not really mainstream.

  • Shemp

    It’s weird if you see or meet Grynbaum, because he writes like he’s about 75 years old.

  • NYT Unsubscribe

    What is Michael Grynbaum’s problem? Why do all of his bike-related “news” stories get injected with this editorial vitriol? Why can’t he report cleanly? Why is he even allowed to work for the Times? He’s an advocate, not a reporter.

  • It’s also hilarious/infuriating that the Times invents this narrative: “a hard-fought acceptance for the lanes may finally be at hand.” 

    All the polls have shown significant positives for bike lanes; none have shown less than  a 15-point margin separated the approvers from the haters. So where is the evidence that the popularity of bike lanes was “hard fought” or that it is “finally at hand” after supposedly being held at bay for years? Answer: it doesn’t exist.

    Granted, we only have data going back a year or so, but you could just as easily assume that most New Yorkers have approved of bike lanes all along, and all the complaining never represented the majority.

  • @777c641d33411cf09245aec2c25f8a77:disqus I guess there’s no dramatic tension in a story about people liking bike lanes and owning and riding bikes in large numbers.

  • Station44025

    So why is the smart money on anti-bike positions in the mayoral campaign? Because it is actually the dumb money.

    Let’s see if this changes the tune of any candidates. I’ll start holding my breath….now.

  • Here’s a weird thing: I saw this article as an overwhelmingly positive statement on safe streets progress in NYC. Only a few lines jumped out at me as gratuitously negative. Maybe I’m suffering from some form of intellectual isolation thanks to Grynbaum, Cuozzo, et. al. where I’m finally relieved to see facts that can be used as an endorsement of safe streets progress.

    But then I waded into the comments and then I was completely lost again. Apparently every person in NYC is nearly hit by a cyclist every day, so, give all that space back to cars so they can continue going nowhere fast as usual. 

  • Anonymous

    Why do they even have quotes like this:
    Gloria Tingue, 41, an occupational therapist in Brooklyn, said she believed that many bicyclists ignored the city’s traffic rules. “Everyone should be going in the same direction, and if we’re stopping, they should also be stopping and not weaving and bobbing in traffic, because it is a hazard for everyone else,” she said.

    This is just paint-by-numbers now. 

  • Matt Flegenheimer has generally done a much better job reporting on these issues, offering straightforward analysis with little of the backhanded editorializing of Michael Grynbaum and Christine Haughney.  I guess he was on vacation today.

    Note how many times Grynbaum uses phrases like “some respondents” or “some people.”  When you read the story you never know how many people “some people” really represent. 10%?  5%? 1%?  Maybe it was just one lousy crank who screamed “I HATE BIKES” into the phone before hanging up on the pollster.  So if “some respondents wondered…if the city would mandate helmet use for bicycles,” please tell us how many.  Otherwise the fact has no context with which smart Times readers can weigh its relative import.  (As a minor style note, requiring “helmet use for bicycles” is not a good idea; helmets are much more effective when worn by cyclists.)

    Forget Grynbaum.  This poll is a complete validation of the life-saving policies of Janette Sadik-Khan. Keep going!

  • KillMoto

    “The city’s planned Paris-style bike-sharing network, a capstone of the Transportation Department’s efforts to encourage two-wheeled transit, has not generated much interest.”

    By all measures, The Hubway in Boston didn’t get much interest – until the bikes hit the streets.  Once that happened, it proved itself a massively successful & popular public/private partnership and transportation option. 

  • Ben Kintisch

    Whether you drive, walk, or bike, it’s good news when more people are biking – because God knows there’s no more space for cars!

  • Hilda

    Crazy little items that make me roll my eyes at bike lanes finally being “accepted”
    -Except for thinking term limits is a good idea (77%), the number for thinking bike lanes are a good idea is by far the largest positive response in the survey.
    -The entire article is about bike lanes, even though the survey had way more in it than just bike lanes. We know what sells, right NY Times?
    -The comment that NYers think that bike lanes are a good idea, but don’t ride regularly. As in NYers that own a car drive regularly? I tend to think that alternate side parking does not count as driving regularly, but maybe that is just me.
    -That the designated bike share stations are in locations where people will likely use the service. Really? Who the hell planned that! And so little interest that there is a week of comments about the delay? 

    At least the headline wasn’t completely false, it was the only indication that I was not reading the Post.

  • Jesse Greene

    “I was nearly hit by a cyclist” is how bike haters say “I was not hit by a cyclist.”

  • Jesse Greene

    “I was nearly hit by a cyclist” is how bike haters say “I was not hit by a cyclist.”

  • Ben Kintisch

    Ben –
    Great analysis on a decidely biased piece of reporting from the NYT. One telling piece of news from this: despite the generally very strong poll numbers, people in comments sections and blogs are still focused on bad biking behavior. Nearly every time I’ve attended a Community Board meeting about any kind of safety improvement for cyclists I hear this same tired complaint: “Cyclists don’t deserve (a bike lane, etc.) because one time I saw…..(a red light runner, a wrong way cyclist, a near miss, etc.).
    So just think twice the next time you personally roll out for a ride, of whatever length. When you ride well, safely, predictably, you are a more positive face of cycling and you make your fellow road users (pedestrians, drivers and cops) all more likely to support what you support. If you choose to roll through red lights, fly through a pedestrian crosswalk, or ride in a manner that produces “close calls” (real or perceived), you leave dozens of people on each ride thinking “A-hole cyclists don’t deserve anything.” Which kind of rider will you be today?

  • “If, say, a quarter of New Yorkers use Citi Bike, the system would be overwhelmed by demand.”

    I’m not too sure about that. Travel patterns in NYC are a lot less coherent than in other cities, and that makes bikeshare a better fit. Boston’s system has a dozen annual members per bike and it works fine. Citibike would probably work fine with an even more outsized ratio.

  • Oh yeah, “Paris-style.” In Timesland, major bike-share systems must always be linked to Paris, no matter how many other cities launch them.

  • Anonymous

    The whole bike lane issue shows just how isolated the political/union class and its mouthpieces are from the majority of people who live here, aka the serfs. At least the executive/financial class has to understand the serfs, since it doesn’t have the power to tax them and thus has to con them to get ahead.

    The reason the narrative that people who ride bicycles are outsiders cheating the real New Yorkers out of their streets, streets that belong only to them, is repeated over and over is that everyone they know agrees.  After all, were it not for that placard they’d be serfs themselves.

  • KillMoto

    In my fantasy world, press placards are outlawed and journalists discover the best way to get around is by bicycle.

  • Travelling by bike is a good way to explore the world. It is cheap as no need to spend money on fuel.

     

  • Vr

    I don’t know why newspapers have to learn this lesson over and over again, but the Internet comments in the editorial section does not equal popular sentiment.  It equals cranky guy whole believes he has to take his high blood presure medication because of unionized, early morning garbage disposal service.

  • Abc

    >more than half of New Yorkers said they were not likely at all to use the service.” 

    Gee, no correlation can possibly be drawn between that and the fact that “more than half of” New York households already have a bike handy?

  • Marveling Marv

    More than a million adults ride a bike at least once a week, here in NYC? Bull. Just bull. That so called half that have a bike in their household? Were they asked if these were little kids’ bikes, and if those kids still even ride them? I know that when my daughter was little, she had one, as did her friends. Now, as teens none of them have one, nor do their parents. Up until recently, my father had 3 bikes in his house; the last time any of those had been ridden was in the late ’70s, but does that count in your manipulative interpretation of statistics? If you really believe that nearly half the households, first of all, actually have bikes, much less use them, you really are all just a small bunch of radical extremists hoping that if you lie often enough, it will further force politicians to force your agenda on us.

    The bicyclists here in Midtown Manhattan are more dangerous than the cars. Besides, between the Broadway bike lane and the pedestrian plazas blocking traffic having severely and negatively impacting the quality of the lives of those who live around here (try checking the air pollution levels on the now, almost always packed with standing traffic cross streets, instead of the middle of the couple of blocks where they allow no cars.

    They bikesters NEVER take a ride without disobeying traffic laws. Just stand on the corner of fifty something street and 8th, and watch. And you always have to cross the street with a fear of getting hit by a bike. The riders regularly go the wrong way, so you have to look against traffic, and I’m not talking about delivery guys. I’m talking about whatever the word nowadays is for you entitled feeling yuppies who scoot around.

    The bike lanes on Broadway increased traffic, are never used, except by a few tourists, who are riding so slowly that the regular bike riders never use the bike lane, much less obey any traffic laws.  They’re still zipping along on Broadway right next to the cars. Now, with Mad Mike’s new bike lane on 8th avenue, if people make the mistake of stepping off the sidewalk on the west side of the street, to pass the parked cars and look for a cab, they better not get in the way of a cyclist, who will scream at them as if the pedestrian just shot their dog.

    I grew up in Brooklyn, and when I go there now, I see how the implementation of bike lanes on, for example, already busy Bergen Street, have increased congestion exponentially by forcing the street to one lane.Cyclists are definitely more dangerous than motorists in the part of town I live in, midtown West. The disobey the laws at will, and I know quite a large number of drivers (I don’t have a car), lifelong Liberals, gay and straight, who swear that the next candidate who promises to rip out the bike lanes around Manhattan, no matter what else this candidate stands for, will get their vote.

    The radical agenda of you insane bicyclists, hopefully, will be scaled back. Of course, not before we read, in places like this, attacks on pedestrians. Your feelings of entitlement over all other modes of transportations in the city, even walking, is sickening, and hopefully something will one day be done about it.

  • Anonymous

    @1d455d2a65b236f9306623aa7ea4e96e:disqus I suppose you wouldn’t be interested in, like, statistics pointing to how much more dangerous cars are than bikes, right? No? Okay, didn’t think so.

  • Joe R.

    @1d455d2a65b236f9306623aa7ea4e96e:disqus Funny how you’re talking about the feelings of entitlement of cyclists when your friends are perfect examples of the feelings of entitlement of drivers. Any motorist who thinks they should be able to drive unimpeded in a place as dense as Manhattan certainly fits that description. As it is, 90% of the street space in Manhattan is turned over to motor vehicles for parking or driving. This is despite the fact that 95% of the people in Manhattan get there by walking, biking, or public transit. If you want to talk about entitled and selfish, then your average NYC motorist is the very personification of it. Heaven forbid cyclists and pedestrians have a little space, even if that means your trip will take 30 seconds longer. What’s radical is the fact that the automobile was foisted on a city where automobiles make little sense, and offer no advantages whatsoever over other modes of transport. Most of the time you can get where you’re going faster by bike or subway than by driving. Sometimes even walking is faster than driving! So tell me why we shouldn’t normalize the streets to make them more useful for all users, even if it is at the expense of a minority in cars? The streets are about moving PEOPLE, not moving cars. You move more people when these people are on foot, on bikes, or in public transit.

    I’m glad the demographic represented by you is gradually fading away. It’s not the 1950s where “See the USA-in my Chevrolet” is cool any more. Cars are a relic of the 20th century and will hopefully pass into the dustbin of history within a generation. The bike lanes are here to stay and hopefully the city will start widening the sidewalks in Manhattan as well because this is sorely needed. Anyone who loves their automobile has plenty of other places in the USA where they can move. I look forward to the day when we have zero injuries and deaths caused by automobiles in this city.

  • Guest

    Capital Bikeshare has had ~25K people sign up for annual memberships since it started, but due to attrition/non-renewals, the current annual membership is closer to 16K.  The percentage of people w/memberships also only counts residents of DC & Arlington- DC is relatively compact geographically (<10 sq mi) and most of the region's residents live outside of the limits of these relative small areas.  So the penetration rate relative to the target population is way under the 2.9% figure extrapolated in the article.

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